Make no mistake: first-time visitors may find Shibuya more than a little chaotic. This stunningly vibrant neighbourhood is like a condensed version of the massive city around it, with every Tokyo delight imaginable squeezed into a single area. Within a 500-metre radius, you get everything from traditional Japanese culture to the latest films, music and art, not to mention countless restaurants, bars and shops. Start your journey through the chaos of Shibuya at these unmissable spots.
CERULEAN TOWER NOH THEATRE
Step away from Shibuya’s neon jungle and appreciate Japan’s traditional performing arts here. The programme centres on Noh and Kyogen theatre, but also includes traditional music and rakugo (comic storytelling). Entrance is free on days with no performances, so it’s worth visiting even if you aren’t an expert on the topic.
Those looking for an evening of classy entertainment can raise a glass to Tokyo’s gorgeous skyline at the Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel’s top-floor bar. The live piano music adds to the stylish atmosphere.
This iconic meeting spot in front of Shibuya Station has been beloved by locals and tourists alike for decades. With the station undergoing extensive redevelopment, Hachiko may also soon have to move from his familiar perch. See the loyal pooch while you still can, and consider picking up a 3D Hachiko postcard – the ideal souvenir – at the Taiseido bookstore or Tokyu department stores in Shibuya.
D47 DESIGN TRAVEL STORE
Shelves upon shelves of wares from all over Japan, both edible and not, greet you at this shop that’s somehow managed to pack the entirety of the country into one store. Every Japanese region is represented, allowing visitors with no time to explore the areas beyond Tokyo to get a taste of what they’re missing out on.
TOKYU THEATRE ORB
Found inside the Shibuya Hikarie building, this theatre is built in a distinctive and futuristic spherical shape and hosts mainly musicals. The short distance between the seats and the stage makes for a particularly dramatic theatre experience. Entrance is from the 11th floor.
A landmark hangout for fashion-conscious high school girls and women in their early twenties, 109 is Shibuya’s most recognisable structure and has been towering over the area since 1979. It merits a visit even if you’re not into shopping for the latest ironic T-shirts, platform shoes and eye-popping accessories.
This wildly popular sushi restaurant always sees lengthy queues snaking towards its entrance inside the Shibuya Mark City complex, but the superb location is only part of its charm. Midori Sushi serves up high-quality fare at very reasonable prices, and menus in English are available.
BAR GINZA PANORAMA SHIBUYA
An essential experience for train geeks, Panorama Bar is dominated by a model railway diorama that covers almost seven square metres and features a wide range of miniature trains speeding about – some very enthusiastic patrons even bring their own rolling stock for a test drive. Make sure to try one of the bar’s original cocktails, themed on the train lines serving Shibuya Station.
Everyone should see Shibuya’s world-famous scramble crossing with their own eyes. A whopping 500,000 people cross this intersection every single day – join them and marvel at how the throngs of people manage to drift across the intersection without (almost) ever bumping into each other.
Excellent Japanese cuisine meets gorgeous views at Shunsai, a restaurant inside the Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu. Make sure you get a window seat and gaze out over the famed scramble crossing from 100m above ground.
TOWER RECORDS SHIBUYA
Tower Records is alive and well in Japan, and this humongous flagship store is packed to the brim with a seemingly endless selection of CDs, vinyl and much more. Each floor focuses on a different genre, and you can try before you buy at the ‘listening corners’ set up around the store. Shibuya is known as a record store hub – we recommend starting here and then making your way to the many smaller shops.
From daily essentials and quirky decorative items to bicycles, cosmetics, stationery and useful knickknacks for pet owners, the chaos of Tokyu Hands is like a retail symbol of Shibuya’s cultural jumble. After scouring it from top to bottom, take a break at the adjoining café.
In addition to multiplexes like Toho Cinemas, Shibuya has quite a few arthouse cinemas in the area around the Tokyu department store. Uplink, located in the trendy back streets of the area, ranks among the best and most popular. It screens interesting indie and underground hits alongside short films.
A standout among Shibuya’s many art galleries, Nanzuka highlights fresh and challenging contemporary art. Located near Shibuya Hikarie, it often features exhibitions of Japanese artists making it big overseas.
Freshly opened in September as the second branch of WWW, one of Shibuya best gig spots, WWW X upholds the legacy of its parent venue with bookings that reflect the latest trends in Tokyo’s incredibly vibrant music scene. Look out for this one to raise its profile further in the months to come.
THE OBSERVATION DECK
The area around Shibuya Station is slated to be under various degrees of construction until 2027. Perhaps the most significant change on the horizon is the erection of a 47-storey skyscraper. It’s set to feature an open-air observation deck 230m above ground, allowing visitors to gaze out over the scramble crossing, Tokyo Tower and even the Skytree.
In autumn 2018
Another noteworthy change is the upcoming restoration of the Shibuya River, set to flow free once again in autumn 2018. Aiming to create a new urban oasis, public and private actors are also coming together to build a 600m promenade along the river in the direction of Daikanyama.